Saturday, May 30, 2009

Syttende mai og en liten 'Vassfjellet' tur

The 17th of May is Norwegian National Day. In New Zealand a national day might mean a public holiday and not too much more. In Norway the whole population comes out to town to celebrate, dressed in their national costume, the bunad. Its an amazing day and a big part of it is the barnatoget- school childrens' parade. I decided in my role as an assistant teacher at a school in Trondheim the chance to walk in the parade was to good to miss!
Luckily forewarned that even without a bunad the dress code was formal, I donned a nice skirt and cycled into the bustling town on a wonderfully hot summery day. The crowds on the streets made it hard to even make it into the school, but eventually I forced my way through. The children all looked beautiful in their wee dresses and shirts. We began marching in procession with flag bearers and a brass band at the front.

The streets were packed, everyone was out to see the parade. It was a cool experience and was an insight into the importance Norwegian society places on the family and children. After the parade Chris and I decided it was time to sneak away and have some more 'sweaty and muddy' fun.

Some great views climbing up Vassfjellet

We cycled over to Vassfjellet (~700m high) for an excellent mountain bike adventure. It took about 1.5 hours to get there via some back roads, then it was a solid 45 minute grunt up a 4wd road to the summit. In the winter this is a ski field. From the top we descended via a series of walking tracks and bogs with some great views towards Trondheim. The tracks were a bit muddy, but relatively bikable, all and all great fun!

On the top of Vassfjellet

The ski field

Some good tracks along the summit ridge

Down through some bogs..

Once back down it was another 1.5 hours back into town for a good feed at home. As we biked back we saw families having post 'syttende mai' BBQs in their back yards still wearing their bunads. The feeling I had was of Christmas afternoon in New Zealand, it was a neat feeling and a great day that I won't forget.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Skempe Spennende Jotunheimen!

We just returned from a fantastic long weekend in the hills and I am still buzzing! We headed into the Jotunheimen Mountains (about 6 hours South of Trondheim) with Ally and his Australian friend Tim. Just to pack things in on Thursday evening we all ran in the Sprint Cup before taking off with a very fully laden car towards the Jotunheimen.

We camped high up on the Dovre plateau on a somewhat average camp spot close to the main road. There were patches of snow all over the rolling alpine plateau, but serious signs of spring were all around with buds popping up, lakes thawing and patches of green grass and mosses emerging everywhere.

The Dovre Plateau

After a chilly picnic breakfast in a nippy breeze on a very fine spring morning we jumped back in the car and continued the journey on through Dumbås to Lom. Our plan for Friday was to go up a peak called Loftet which was not so far from the big peak we planned to ski on Saturday - Galdhøpiggen - the highest mountain in Scandanavia at 2469.

Loftet was certainly lofty in that it was very white and lofty. We parked by the side of the road, stuck our skins on our skis and began the climb. It was a wonderful day and soon the veiws of the valley below opened up.

Some semi frozen lakes below

We slogged our way up the reasonably steep sided mountain - me feeling increasing apprehensive given Chris and I had 'felleskis' to ski down on. (These are baisically just a glorified fatter version of a cross country ski with a free heel - not easy thing to ski on).

Ally on the way up

Chris and I on the summit knoll

Tim and Ally swooshed down the mountain looking very styly on their randonee skis... uuuh ohh I thought! After a photo stop on the white knoll on the summit we started our very slow descent. I really struggled on the skis, falling over every few seconds and getting a serious insight into how it feels to learn to ski again! Chris was doing well on his slightly more curved felleskis, but all and all it was a painful descent and by the time I got to the bottom I was swearing I will invest in some randonee skis!

At least it was a beautiful day

Check out this snowplow!

The lakes are melting even this high!

After some of Tim's reviving Shanghai tea we drove up valley towards Spiterstue and tomorrows goal. We found a beautiful camp spot with a wee fire place, a babbling brook and nice flat ground, perfect! After a nice evening round the fire we retired to our cozy tents to the patter of rain. The morning did not dawn so clear and we were all apprehensive about if it would be fine enough for Galdhøpiggen.

A very nice camp spot

At the car park it was windy and raining, but Chris was as opptomistic as always. At this point we all made a not so clever decision to split up - Chris and I wanted to climb the grassy ridge to the right of the prominent cliff and Tim and Ally wanted to stick to the steep snow slope on the left. So, armed with walkie talkies we headed off in two different directions. The cloud came and went as Chris and I climbed and the occasional sun burst spurred us on.

Eventually we rounded the cliff and reached a lovely white snow hump that curved gently up towards the ridge - perfect for our skis. Once up on the ridge it was a bit windier and misty so we continued on up until we spotted Ally and Tim way below in the cloud. After a wee radio chat we all agreed it was best for Chris and I to continue given we were so much slower on the downhill. The clouds were swirling in as we climbed making it all the more exciting. The ridge is really very flat and straightforward, but there are some big drops off either side down to the glaciers.

Heading over the snow hump... so pretty in the mountains, ahhh!

After cresting several 'mini' summits the main top was in veiw with its little 'kiosk' on the tip. We skied up to it in the gently falling snow and took some summit shots atop the little observation table.

Made it!

There wasn't much of a view and it was fairly chilly, so we carefully descended, Chris mostly skiing and me mostly walking. Once we got further down the clouds cleared and out popped the glorious sun. I even managed some nice snow plow turns in the powdery snow on the gentle slopes down the mountain.

The sun is out (also note small snow patch on Chris's hat; how did it get there? Can you guess? )

Emily takes it easy and enjoys the view!

Chris pulls off some good turns

As we got lower the snow became slushier and more difficult to see. Finally we descended the last knotch on the ridge and could see down to the car. A radio chat with Ally and Tim revealed that they had turned round before reaching the top - we should have all stuck together as a group after all. Fortunatly they had had a wonderful run back down to the car through the best ski section and had both dropped off a rather terrifying little waterfall cliff thing which they were rapidly encouraging Chris to attempt over the walkie talkie! Until I got wind of it and rapidly put a stop to it (-:
Back down the mountain

After another awesome day in the mountains we drove back towards Lom on the lookout for a camp spot as wonderful as the previous night's. Eventually we spotted one on the opposite side of a lake that we drove past - so we loaded up our overnight gear and walked the 5 minutes round the lake. There was a little wooden shelter looking out onto the lake with a fireplace and plenty of room to sleep in as well! We lit the fire, cooked up some well deserved dinner and marvelled at yet another good camp spot find!

One speedy swim

What lovely spot!

We woke in the morning to the sun shining across the green lake - it was so warm some of us even took our first ever Norwegian swim! (That was a rather quick one I have to admit!) We lounged around our nice spot all morning, then packed up and headed home. A few food stops along the way and lots of puffing about future mountain trips and we were back in Trondheim. The field outside our apartment is looking greener than ever and the trees have leaves!

Vår er så vakker i Norge!